Bordeaux’s right bank, or ‘Rive Droite’, was something of an aberration.

Although Bordeaux was one of France’s largest and most developed cities, the right bank of the Garonne river was underdeveloped. Half-savage expanses of muddy tall grass and abandoned houses faced chic, luxurious docks shining from the left side. In the few times Basil had visited the city he often sat there, waiting for the Garonne’s level to lower and reveal the wrecks of abandoned ships in its depths. At night, the streetlights gave Bordeaux an almost mystical feel as a horizon of artificial stars burst to life to illuminate the city.

Or at least, that was how Basil remembered it.

A thick red fog swallowed the left shore, covering its buildings and extinguishing its lights. Basil couldn’t see any of Bordeaux’s neoclassical buildings, nor either of its famous cathedral’s twin towers. A dense, bloody mist obscured them all under a wretched purple sky.

Worst of all, the whole city stank of alcohol. The stench drove Basil mad.

“I know why my books call it the city of wine now,” Shellgirl mused while pinching her slime nose. “But I thought it would smell better.”

“Me too,” Vasi replied with a frown as they followed Elissalde’s dogs on foot.

“Boss, look!” Bugsy pointed his antennae at a magnificent stone bridge surging from the red mist. Basil identified it as Bordeaux’s ‘Pont de Pierre’ from its old-fashioned, imperial-style street lamps. It used to be one of the city’s most beautiful monuments.

Whatever sorcery affected Bordeaux disfigured the bridge too. Sinister Shinto-like red archways appeared all over its length, surrounded by antiquity-style statues of Greek deities. Not only was the architectural mishmash absolutely hideous, but vines also infested the bridge’s stones. The plants grew out of the wine river and slowly undermined the foundations.

Couldn’t a so-called god pick up better architects?

The transformation effect eerily reminded Basil of a dungeon’s terraforming. Yet this one, as far as he knew, was projected by an individual creature rather than a neurotower. If a monster could rewrite reality across such a large distance, what could a high-level one do? Summon meteors? Obscure the sun?

“Isn’t one of the bridges missing?” Plato asked with a frown. “I remember two of them.”

“General Leblanc ordered the bridge of Saint-Jean’s destruction weeks ago,” their doberman guide explained. “Sea serpents from the ocean damaged it beyond repair.”

“Fools!” Bugsy choked in indignation. As an amateur architect, the centimagma took the bridge’s redesign personally. “The vines fragilize the foundations! What a crappy job! No respect for good masonry!”

“I’m afraid this is the least of our worries,” a familiar voice echoed above them.

Basil raised his eyes. Two flying forms approached them from above: some kind of golden-feathered griffin the size of a small lion carrying two riders, and a certain plague doctor with wings.

Level 22 [Angel]
Party: Artzain Ahizpak.

Bordeaux’s guardian angel had kept its post.

“Mister Zach!” Bugsy snapped his mandibles in happiness. “I’m so glad to see you again!”

Basil smiled, doubly so when he identified one of the two people riding the griffin.

Neria Elissalde
Level 23 [Humanoid] (Guard 17/Gunslinger 6).
Party: Artzain Ahizpak.

“Officer!” Basil waved a hand at her. “Neria!”

“Basil! Is it really you?” Neria Elissalde froze upon noticing Rosemarine’s colossal, lumbering body. “Oh my god, is that… is that your plant?”

“Hello, Miss!” Rosemarine’s tongue emerged from her toothy maw, much to the policewoman’s horror. “You look as delicious as ever!”

Aww, she had learned flattery!

“I…” Officer Elissalde cleared her throat, unsure how to react. “Thank you, I suppose.”

Her griffin landed on the right bank alongside Zachariel, allowing Basil to examine the last member of this small trio: a child holding on to the griffin’s mane.

The girl couldn’t have been older than eight, with stark gray eyes and long black hair. She was a lovely child, though her choice of dress—a long, antiquity-styled Greek tunic—was quite eccentric. Something about her felt odd, although Basil couldn’t put his fingers on it. She looked at the group with a blank face and a distant gaze, as if peering through them.

Nessia Marius (Nymphblooded)
Level 15 [Humanoid/Fairy] (Oracle of Dionysus-Ananke 10/Witch 3/Griffinrider 2)
Party: Artzain Ahizpak.
Witsy (Griffin)
Level 15 [Avian/Beast]
Party: Artzain Ahizpak.

An… an oracle of Dionysus? The same creature responsible for the fog? Basil was immediately wary of the girl, but he trusted Neria enough to provide an answer.

“Mmm…” Plato examined the griffin, sneering at the wings but appreciating the feline body. “I knew we cats had a love-hate relationship with birds, but to think one of my kindred would produce a mixed-race bastard...”

“I’m beautiful,” the griffin argued with a childish voice. “Like a feathered candy!”

“Don’t be a racist, Plato,” Basil chided his cat. He approached the child and couldn’t help but pat her on the head. In spite of his distrust, Basil always had a soft spot for kids. “Hello, little one. What’s your name? I’m Basil.”

“Nessia,” she replied softly. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

Neria, Nessia… There was a joke to be made here, but Basil was too happy to see Elissalde safe to comment. The girl was more perceptive than she looked, though that might be because of her relatively high level.

It saddens me to see someone her age with classes, Basil thought grimly. The Apocalypse spared no one.

“Is she another of your sisters?” Basil asked Neria. When her expression turned somber, he immediately realized he should have worded it better.

“No,” Officer Elissalde shook her head as she climbed down from the griffin’s back. “Nessia… how to say it…”

The little girl pointed a finger at the skies. “I fell from there.”

Yet another displaced immigrant from a distant universe. They started to pop up everywhere lately.

“You should open a tourism agency,” Basil told Shellgirl. “There’s money to make in the business.”

“Eh, too much hassle,” she replied. “And is that how human children are made?”

“Yes, when a man and a woman love each other very much, a child falls from the skies,” Vasi deadpanned.

“Can it happen between a hag and a human?” Bugsy asked innocently. “I-I mean, out of curiosity…”

“Sir, it’s good to see you again.” Zachariel clenched Basil’s hands, before immediately pulling back. “Did you wash them with holy water first?”

“Of course,” Basil lied. The angel’s eccentricities always brought a smile to his face. “Any progress on eradicating Coronatheism?”

“Ah, Sir, if only you knew the terrible state of the French’s spiritual health! I blame years of faith privatization.” Zachariel let out a long sigh of frustration. “I was making progress when this new plague of Greek Fever hit us.”

“I’m so glad to see you all alive and well. You’ve all grown so much.” Neria smiled warmly at Vasi. “You even recruited a new face.”

“Vasilisa.” Vasi introduced herself and shook the policewoman’s hand. “But you can call me Vasi. Basil wouldn’t shut up about you.”

Neria chuckled and glanced at Basil. “Wouldn't he?”

“I mentioned you once or twice,” Basil replied with stoicism. Officer Elissalde was a friend and nothing more. If Vasi hoped to tease him, she had failed.

Officer Elissalde smiled, but didn’t comment on the subject further. “I admit I’m surprised to see you here at all, Basil. The last time we met you wouldn’t leave your house for any reason.”

“Yes, but then the house burned,” Shellgirl summed it up with crude bluntness.

“It burned?” Neria covered her mouth. “My God, I’m so sorry to hear that…”

Basil glared at Shellgirl, who shrugged. He hated being pitied.

“It’s a long story,” he replied. “But let’s just say I’m on something of a personal crusade against the fools and the wicked.”

“Ah, I see… that would explain your level. I never saw anyone past twenty-five, and you’re thirty now.” Officer Elissalde frowned. She must have read his System information. “Wait, did you found a Guild?”

“How did you guess?”

“Homeowner Revenge Association,” Neria replied with a deadpan look. “It’s a dead giveaway.”

Good. The world had to understand Basil’s message. “I’m happy to see you alive, officer,” he said. “Honestly I worried you had perished after we lost contact.”

“It was a close call,” Officer Elissalde admitted with a sigh. “If Nessia didn’t guide us to safety, we would still be looking for a way out of the fog.”

Basil frowned at the child. Although she appeared outwardly normal, he couldn’t shake the feeling that she appeared far too calm for her age and current situation. “Why would an oracle of the ‘god,’” the word felt bitter in Basil’s mouth, “help you escape its fog?”

Little Nessia held his gaze with bravery. “I came to free the god. He called me from beyond the gate.”

“To free him?” Vasi asked with a frown. “I do not understand, is he sealed?”

“This Dionysus is not himself,” the oracle argued. “He can’t control his actions. When the fog appeared, he warned me to flee.”

This Dionysus? Her words made little sense to Basil, but they seemed clear to Vasi.

“I see,” the witch said with a nod. “You are an oracle from your world’s Dionysus. Another version of him.”

As little Nessia nodded in confirmation, Basil realized he hated the multiverse. Hated it.

“Is that the reason for the Orochi bit?” Basil pointed a thumb at the Shinto archways sprouting on the distant bridge. “The only Orochi I know of is a Japanese game boss.”

“I cannot tell if the two are related.” Officer Elissalde scowled. “But from what I’ve seen, this Dionysus differs quite a bit from the traditional imagery.”

“He is in pain,” Little Nessia whispered. “I can feel it. A poison clouds his mind and torments his soul. His screams for help guided me to this place. He’s sick, I tell you.”

“He looks pretty powerful for a sick god,” Plato snickered, his eyes set on the fog clouding the other bank. “He turned an entire city into his litter.”

The child pouted in annoyance. “I mean what I say. He’s not himself.”

“Well, the real Dionysus didn’t have Shinto gates around,” Basil conceded. And that Orochi bit sounded a bit suspicious to him. From what he remembered, it referred to a snake monster of some kind. “You came alone to a foreign world just to free a god from… what, madness? Forgive me if I’m skeptical.”

The girl glared at him. “I came with Witsy and dad’s guards.”

“That’s right.” Her griffin nodded with pride. “I’m her talons!”

Her father had guards? She must have been born into wealth. That explained her strange confidence for someone her age. Rich brats were always more headstrong and entitled than the norm in Basil’s experience. Too much spoiling, too soon.

“Nessia came to Bordeaux with quite the large escort,” Officer Elissalde confirmed, “but they were trapped inside the fog like all the others. The mist interferes with electronic communications and those who wander inside don’t come out. It’s why I could no longer contact you with the radio.”

“The city is crawling with soldiers, sir,” Zachariel explained. “They just can’t find each other and coordinate.”

“General Leblanc is somewhere inside, and…” Officer Elissalde looked away, her dogs whining at her sides. “Maya too.”

No wonder she looked unhappy. She had already lost a commanding officer, and now her sister’s life might be in jeopardy.

“Sorry guys, but why are you making a deal out of this ‘Dionysus’?” Shellgirl asked with a confused look. As a recently born monster, she knew nothing of him. “Is he some kind of big shot?”

“He was a god of wine worshiped by the Greek civilization,” Basil explained with a frown. “But I thought you needed to reach level 100 to become a deity. Shouldn’t the Incursion Level Barrier prevent his kind from appearing?”

For once, the System offered him a cryptic answer.

No Overgod has been selected yet. No candidate for the throne is available.

So either this Dionysus wasn’t a god at all, or there was a difference between a normal—the very term made Basil confused—deity and an Overgod.

“Are we sure this is the real Dionysus?” Basil struggled to accept it. “And not just a dungeon-summoned monster impersonating him?”

“I can’t tell,” Officer Elissalde replied. “He claims to be a god at least, and his power speaks for itself.”

“He is Dionysus,” Little Nessia argued. “I’m sure of it. I can feel it.”

“Does it matter?” Plato asked in annoyance. “All this talk makes me want to puke. Let’s slice his throat and be done with it.”

“Slice his throat?” Little Nessia whitened in horror. “You want to kill him?”

Zachariel immediately came to her assistance. “As an angel of science, I recommend trying to heal him first. If he truly suffers from a sickness of the soul, we should at least attempt a spiritual operation. Perhaps a holy waterboarding session would clear his mind.”

“As a former student in pharmacovigilance, I’m tempted to agree,” Basil said. “But your would-be ‘patient’ has enough firepower to turn an entire city and its rivers into a frat boy’s nightmare. Too many lives are at stake.”

“Let me try,” Little Nessia insisted with surprising confidence. “What do you have to lose?”

“All of our lives and then some,” Basil replied bluntly. After what happened to Orcine and Kuikui, he wouldn’t take chances in battle.

“Yo, can we debate this later?” Plato cut in. “First the hippie, then the drunk.”

Good point. Basil ignored Little Nessia’s glare and focused on Officer Elissalde next. “What happened to Kalki?”

“I showed him the server you recovered,” Officer Elissalde said. “As you suspected, it triggered… a flashback, I suppose?”

“A flash of insight,” Zachariel argued. “That was no memory.”

“How can you be sure?” Vasi asked with a frown.

“Because this man does not suffer from amnesia, Miss Yaga. He simply did not exist until a few months earlier.” Zachariel’s words captured the group’s attention. “I examined this Kalki’s spiritual health and, while it was excellent, he showed no sign of brain damage of any kind. Instead, I suspect he came into being like most monsters.”

“Makes sense,” Basil said. If he was indeed Vishnu’s avatar, he probably didn’t exist before the Apocalypse. “What did he see?”

“It was hard to make sense out of what he said,” Neria admitted. “From what I understood, he saw the place where the servers were created.”

“He saw the neurotowers’ factory?” Now that was interesting. If Basil could figure out how neurotowers were made, he could perhaps identify a killswitch.

“Or so we assume,” Neria said with a sigh. “We were making headways on his case when Metal Olympus turned on us. We didn’t anticipate a betrayal from them. General Leblanc was about to sign an alliance treaty with their faction to retake France when your friend’s presence revealed their true colors. At least Kalki managed to get away in time.”

“Where did that hippie flee to?” Plato asked.

“To the UNESCO HQ in Paris. He thought the place would hold the answers he sought. He’s probably halfway there as we speak.”

Basil gritted his teeth in disappointment. Even with the Conch Shell to show his party the path ahead, Kalki had a large head start on them. Basil figured that his bird mount also moved far faster than Rosemarine could too.

“You want to go after him?” Officer Elissalde asked. “I won’t stop you, Basil, but… I would really appreciate your help right now.”

“And you have it,” Basil replied. Catching up to Kalki was a top priority, but he couldn’t abandon a friend in need. A man stuck to his principles or he was no man at all. “What’s this so-called god’s level?”

“I don’t know.” Neria chewed her lip. “But he’s far, far stronger than Steamslime for sure. And he has soldiers under his control. Monsters and humans.”

“Don’t kill him!” Little Nessia insisted. “I told you, he’s not himself.”

“Alright.” Basil glanced down at the child. He was trying to be patient with her considering her age, but he wouldn’t mince his words. “What’s your suggestion then? That we talk it out with him? Do you have a cure ready if things go south?”

As he expected, Little Nessia chewed her lip in annoyance and didn’t answer. She had no solution to provide.

Yeah, I’m not going to jeopardize such a dangerous fight for a child’s delusions, Basil thought. For all I know she misinterpreted the entire situation.

“We could at least try to capture him, sir,” Zachariel argued, putting special emphasis on the try.

“I doubt he will come out to fight us at all,” Vasi pointed out. “This fog offers him a perfect smokescreen.”

“He might,” Shellgirl countered. “If we make the right bet. He came for Kalki, right? Can’t we lie and say we have him? He’ll fall for it if we use the Conch Shell as bait.”

“We need better proof,” Basil replied, until an idea struck him like lightning. He turned his head in Vasi’s direction and swiftly read her status information. “Unless…”

The witch frowned back at him. “What’s on your mind, handsome?”

“If I remember well, one of your new spells is called Glamor,” Basil said. “Does it work as the name suggests?”

“It creates an illusion allowing me to pass as any humanoid creature of my choice.” Vasi immediately caught on. “Ah, I see what you want to try. But my spell is too weak to fake a System ID. Any divination spell will reveal the truth.”

“Mmm…” Basil summoned his Jekyll & Stein book from his inventory. “What if…”

He skipped through the pages and quickly found the entry he was looking for.

Mr. Hyde’s Play Jekyll recipe
Family: Potion (Consumable)
Quality: Variable.
Effect: Allows the drinker to fake his System information for a set of time (based on quality) per milliliter consumed.
Created by Mr. Hyde to play pranks on his other side, this potion will temporarily allow you to fake your System information to outsiders. Mostly used by underage people to access nightclubs. Keep away from children.

Perfect. With the Conch Shell to provide a fake smell, the group could credibly force a confrontation on favorable terrain.

“We have the ingredients for an invisibility potion too,” Basil muttered to himself. “Mmm…”

“Basil, just to be clear…” Neria shifted in place uncomfortably. “You want to fight a pagan god?”

“I only respect one god.” Basil glared at the red fog. “And his name is Jesus Fucking Christ.”

Bringing down pagan idols was his duty as a Christian, and Basil had become frighteningly good at burning monsters.

“I’ve never eaten a god before,” Rosemarine whispered with glee. Her slimy tongue licked her fangs hungrily. “I hope he tastes like honey.”

Officer Elissalde appeared spooked. “You’re set on it…”

“We killed a snail-dragon from outer space,” Basil replied with confidence. “We’ll just have to hit this one harder. An ambush may be our only shot at defeating him and freeing your sister.”

His confidence swayed Officer Elissalde a little. “I… I suppose.”

“Don’t kill him,” Little Nessia whispered in defeat. She knew she was outvoted. “Please.”

Basil sighed. “Fine, we’ll try to settle it peacefully and get to the bottom of this… sickness, whatever you call it. But if I feel that it puts any of us in danger, we’ll fight to kill with no hesitation. It’s him or us.”

“It’s a plan I can get behind,” Officer Elissalde said. Little Nessia nodded slowly; it was the best deal she would get. “Alright, I’m with you.”

“Us too,” her dogs spoke as one. “We’ll help you, Master Bohen, Mistress Neria!”

“Me too,” Little Nessia suggested. “Witsy and I can heal.”

“Hell no.” Basil wouldn’t hear of it. “You and your bird stay behind. You’re both benched.”

“I’m sorry, Nessia, but I’m with him on this one,” Officer Elissalde said, much to the little girl’s anger. “You should stay behind.”

“I’m level fifteen,” Little Nessia argued with childish pride.

“You’re half my level and a third of my age,” Basil shot back with a tone that brooked no argument. From what the System told him, even the dogs were five levels higher than Little Nessia. They would pull their weight, whereas the kid might die from any stray shot. “No way I’m letting an eight-year-old child into a warzone.”

The girl crossed her arms in annoyance and grumbled to herself. “I’m nine…”

“She could actually help us at no danger to herself.” Vasi put a hand on her waist, her lips curling into a wide smile. “She’s a witch and my Hag Coven Perk doesn’t require distance.”

Basil raised an eyebrow. “You want to add her to the party and activate the coven feature?”

“It will be easy with the Guild’s interlocked parties system,” Vasi argued. She put her hands on Little Nessia’s shoulders. “Come on… look at her face… please…”

“I could register my party with your Guild,” Neria proposed with a warm smile. “That way you could benefit from some of my Perks.”

“Mmm…” Basil examined Little Nessia. Both the child and Vasi looked up at him with big doe-eyes. Although Basil’s heart of stone remained unmoved, he didn’t see why he would deny the request. Little Nessia was no monster, so she would survive even if he were to perish in battle. “So long as she stays far, far at the rear.”

“Sure,” Little Nessia replied. Her tone made Basil unsure whether she was dutifully obeying or lying to his face, but a deal was a deal.

You have recruited the [Artzain Ahizpak] Party into your Guild!
You switched the Rosemarine Eglantine de la Barthe and Nessia Marius Party members.
Congratulations, you formed a coven with Nessia Marius and Vasilisa Yaga. You receive a +30% bonus to crafting potions and magical items and the cost of casting spells is halved. Members of your coven can cast the following Witchcraft coven spells if they possess the required spellcasting tiers: [Witch Ladder] (Tier I), [Evil Eye] (Tier II), [Witch Ball] (Tier III), [Bruxa Murder] (Tier IV), [Zduhać Projection] (Tier V), [Magonia] (Tier VI), [Grand Hex] (Tier VII), [Call the Drude] (Tier VIII), [Grimalkin Gate] (Tier IX), [Walpurgis Night] (Tier X).

“Aww…” Rosemarine complained. “Not again.”

“It’s just one time,” Basil promised as he examined the new Coven spells that Vasi could cast. Witch Ladder summoned, well, a ladder from nothing, and Witch Ball created an item capable of repelling evil ghosts and spirits.

Evil Eye though debuffed Luck for multiple foes and Bruxa Murder…

“You won’t like this spell, Plato,” Basil mused. “At all.”

The cat groaned. “It involves birds, doesn’t it? No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”

“Suit yourself.” Basil glanced at his team. “Alright guys, I have a plan. But to make sure we’ll pull it off correctly… we’ll practice it first.”

No more improvisation.

A few hours later, the group stood in the middle of Bordeaux’s bridge. Neither the light of the moon nor the stars pierced through the purple aura obscuring the skies. At least the street lamps still worked.

How long must we wait? Basil wondered as he glared at the fog with his halberd in hand. Neria Elissalde, her dogs, Shellgirl, and Bugsy formed a defensive perimeter around him. The rest of his allies were either waiting in ambush or staying at the rear. Though in Plato’s case, one could say that he’s hiding in plain sight…

As for Vasi, she knelt at Bugsy’s feet. A veil of sorcery disguised her as Kalki. The trick was vividly effective; having seen the man himself, the witch mimicked his appearance to perfection. She even faked struggling against the ropes holding her hands and the cloth piece gagging her. She was a natural actress.

“They’re watching,” a voice whispered.

“Ah!” Basil turned his head in the voice’s direction with his halberd raised for the kill. A ghostly apparition of Little Nessia appeared at his side, ethereal and translucent. “What’s this?”

“Is it Halloween again?” Shellgirl asked in confusion.

“I’m alive,” the little girl replied. “It’s an Oracle ability.”

“Well, don’t spook me like that again,” Basil chided her. “I almost cut you in half.”

“You would have failed,” the child replied as a matter of fact.

Not even ten and already a smartass.

“She’s right, Boss,” Bugsy said, his antennae raised in alarm. “I sense someone approaching from the other side.”

Neria Elissalde cocked her rifle. The officer came equipped with riot gear, a plexiglass shield, and other firearms attached to her belt. “A messenger.”

Indeed, a woman emerged from the fog alone dressed in a white robe and red, traditional Japanese pants. Thanks to his extensive video game culture, Basil immediately identified the outfit as that of a Miko, a Japanese priestess. A serpent mask covered her face except for long black hair. She was unarmed, yet showed no fear as she stepped onto the bridge.

Here comes the Mouth of Sauron, Basil thought. Why the hell would a Greek god use a Japanese-themed priestess? Something doesn’t add up here.

Janine Mazel
Level 20 [Humanoid] (Priest of Dionysus-Orochi 11/Brawler 9).
Faction: Metal Olympus.

Basil couldn’t help but scoff at the French name. She was a cosplayer!

“Have you mortals finally seen reason?” the masked woman rasped. She stopped under the shadow of a Shinto archway covering the bridge. Greek statues observed her from both sides of the bridge. “Relinquish him.”

Straight to business.

“Summon your boss first,” Basil ordered. “I wanna talk to him first.”

The woman snorted arrogantly. “Or what?”

“Or his head will roll over the floor.” Basil raised his halberd right above ‘Kalki’s’ neck. The fiery rune empowering it faltered a little because of the field’s effect, but the blade remained as sharp as ever. “Maybe I’ll feed him to my Centimagma. I haven’t decided yet.”

“Hail Emperor Vegan!” Bugsy shouted, trying his best villain impersonation. It left much to be appreciated, but his monstrous appearance made up for his lack of a good script. “Fry the meatbags!”

Although he couldn’t see the woman’s expression under her mask, Basil noticed her freeze with apprehension. If she was worried for his safety, then the potion managed to fool her scans. Vasi’s muffled screams and struggle against her bindings added a little touch of urgency to the scene.

“I think you’re under the misconception that this man is my gift. You’re wrong.” Basil pointed his halberd at the messenger. “He’s my hostage, which means you’ll play by my rules.”

“Fool,” the woman rasped. “You do not know who he is.”

“He’s Vishnu’s avatar,” Basil replied. This time, the messenger flinched. Gotcha. “Wanna see how he bleeds?”

“Then you know the world will die with him,” the priestess pointed out. Officer Elissalde turned her head in Basil’s direction, her face hidden behind her helmet.

Oh right, he had forgotten to mention that detail.

“Beats me,” Basil shrugged. “We’ll just move to another planet.”

“You’re bluffing,” the messenger replied.

Basil took a step forward.

He walked up all the way to the priestess, who immediately adopted a boxing stance. Bugsy moved behind ‘Kalki’ and threatened the hostage with his mandibles.

“Look at me, you little shit. Look at me in the eyes.” Basil stopped in front of the messenger and glared at her. “In the eyes.”

Two black eyes stared at him from behind the snake mask.

“I’m Basil Jean-François Bohen. I’m Bulgarian.” Basil smiled arrogantly and whispered into her ear. “I can do whatever the fuck I want.”

Such moments made Basil glad that he was a blue-eyed blonde. The references wrote themselves.

Whatever the case, his impression was spot on. The priestess’ gaze wavered as he kept staring at her, unblinking, unmoving.

“Why would you do that?” she whispered in shock.

“Because…” Bugsy roared and did his best mad beast impersonation. “We’re evil!”

He delivered the corny line with such passion that Basil immediately forgave him.

“Your boss has five minutes of my time,” Basil warned the priestess with a sinister wink. “And I’m baaaaad at math.”

He didn’t need to wait that long.

“Stay back,” the priestess asked. She joined her hands and whispered some kind of prayer to herself. “I… I will call my master.”

“Try anything suspicious and the Indian immigrant gets it,” Basil said as he returned to his starting spot.

He had barely taken a few steps when he noticed an invisible pressure in the air. A small weight fell on his shoulders and the stench of alcohol from the wine river grew stronger. Bugsy’s antennae pointed at the fog in alarm.

Something was approaching from within the mist.

“He’s screaming,” Little Nessia whispered.

“I don’t hear anything,” Basil replied. Neria raised her rifle and the rest of the party prepared for a fight.

“On the inside.” Her voice dripped with disgust. “He’s begging us for help.”

The priestess knelt as her master floated out of the mist.

The… thing that emerged from the red fog didn’t match any artist’s vision of Dionysus. In fact, it barely looked human at all. The creature was roughly four meters tall, a naked colossus of a humanoid with a bodybuilder’s muscles. His skin was covered in pale purple scales lined with gold. His feet and a black tail floated above the ground, as if the mere act of walking was beneath him. A white mask covered the upper half of his face underneath short silver hair and a golden laurel crown. Two eyeless serpents surged from his shoulders like a second pair of arms.

One of them coiled around a captive Maya Elissalde and lifted her above the ground. Neria’s sister was unconscious, her face beaten bloody. The officer raised her rifle, but didn’t dare shoot. It would spell her death.

The pressure that monster gave off… It felt eerily similar to Apollyon’s. An aura of pure malice and danger.

At least now Basil knew where the Orochi part of the name came from.

“You have done well to bring the avatar to me, mortals.” Two voices echoed at once out of the creature’s many mouths. One raspy like a snake’s hiss, the other human and masculine. Two yellow eyes shone like the stars behind his mask. “You shall be duly rewarded.”

Basil heard the words, but barely paid attention to them. A feeling of familiarity washed over him, as if he had heard one of the voices before. He struggled to recognize it… until he remembered a certain video.

No way in hell. Basil stared at the creature in shock. Could it be?

“You will be akin to gods among men,” Anton Maxwell had told his board on the apocalypse’s eve. “Free to shape the world as you see fit.”

And he had delivered.

A note from Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

Eagle-eyed readers will notice a cameo from Kairos, one of my other novels ;) 

My Patreon (10 to 20 advance chapters of Apocalypse Tamer + access to exclusive art)

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About the author

Maxime J. Durand (Void Herald)

Bio: I'm Maxime Julien Durand ([email protected]), a European warlock living in the distant realm known as France, spending all his time writing tales and forbidden scrolls.

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